Thomas Palmeri, Ph.D.

thomas.j.palmeri AT

tel: 615-343-7900

fax: 615-343-8449

I received my BS in cognitive science from Carnegie Mellon in 1987, my Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Indiana University in 1995, and then began my faculty position at Vanderbilt. I am currently Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychology, Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Director of Undergraduate Research for the Vanderbilt Data Science Institute, co-Director of the Scientific Computing program at Vanderbilt, and head the CatLab. My ORCID ID is 0000-0001-7617-9797.

vita | courses taught | personal stuff | Erdösacademic family tree


Jason Chow

jason.k.chow AT

Jason began as a graduate student at Vanderbilt in Fall 2018. He is from Canada. As an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, he worked with CatLab alumnus, and now University of Toronto faculty member, Michael Mack on the development and validation of a printable 3D stimulus set for categorization experiments in visual and tactile modalities. As a graduate student, Jason is interested in combining computational modeling and neuroimaging to gain insights on perceptual expertise.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Matthew Tillis

mtillis AT

Matthew began as a graduate student in the CatLab at Vanderbilt in Fall 2019. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Irvine. While at Irvine, Matthew worked collaboratively with Ted Wright, Michael Lee, and Vanderbilt alumnus Emily Grossman to model visual attention in center-of-mass judgments. As a graduate student, Matthew is hoping to combine his two areas of study, Bayesian modeling and cognitive neuroscience, to further explore the properties of visual systems and the underlying mechanisms of attention and modulation that allow for visual perception in the first place.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Greg Cox, Ph.D.

gregcox7 AT

After discovering he was not cut out for the life of a musician, Greg turned toward the more lucrative profession of Cognitive Science. Greg got his Ph.D. amid the cornfields of Indiana and served in the ice palaces of Syracuse before joining the team in sunny Vanderbilt. His work involves the development of experimental techniques and mathematical/computational models that help us understand how neural and cognitive processes jointly unfold across time. Such processes range from very brief (fractions of a second, like making rapid decisions based on perceptual information) to moderate duration (a few seconds, like retrieving information from memory) to the long term (hours to years, like learning).

vita | web page | academic family tree


Magen Speegle (Research Analyst and PEN-MMM Coordinator)

magen.a.speegle AT

Magen received her bachelor’s degree in psychology at University of Alabama in Birmingham. Of the many hats she wears, Magen is Coordinator for the Perceptual Expertise Network.

 Claire Hanson

Claire Hanson (Undergraduate Researcher)

claire.i.hanson AT

Claire is a third-year student from rural Minnesota. She is majoring in neuroscience and minoring in scientific computing and French. Outside of academics, Claire is involved in Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science, Alternative Spring Break, and she works as a writing consultant at the Writing Studio. For her, computational modeling is a way to merge her two academic passions: neuroscience and mathematics. She hopes to continue to use computational methods throughout her intended future career as a physician-scientist.

 Samuel Lee

Samuel Lee (Undergraduate Researcher)

samuel.r.lee AT

Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Samuel Lee is a sophomore at Vanderbilt majoring in computer science, math, and French horn performance. On campus, he is involved with Alternative Spring Break, Asian American Christian Fellowship, VUPointe Ballet Theatre, and Code Ignite, an organization promoting and teaching computer science to Nashville schools. He is interested in learning about and applying machine learning techniques to cognitive modeling and is excited to be involved in research with the CatLab team.

 Alex Ma

Alex Ma (Undergraduate Researcher) AT

Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, Alex Ma is a junior at Vanderbilt majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Scientific Computing. Born in Rockville, Maryland, he has a wide breadth of experiences outside of school. He has volunteered as a tutor for Vanderbilt After School Program, as well as for UNICEF’s Vanderbilt chapter, and for Vandy Hacks, the Vanderbilt Hackathon. He plans on doing research after he graduates, especially focusing on the ways computational methods can be applied to biomedical sciences.

 Matthew Seh

Matthew Seh (Undergraduate Researcher)

matthew.c.seh AT

Matthew Seh is a double majoring in Mathematics and Neuroscience and minoring in Scientific Computing. Matthew is involved with SyBBURE, an undergraduate research program, the Vanderbilt Student Government, and Vanderbilt Student Volunteers for Science (VSVS), teaching science to a wide variety of students throughout Nashville. He spends his free time playing music and weightlifting. Matthew plans on going to medical school after graduation, with a focus on the quantitative aspects of health.

 Kaizhong Zhang

Kaizhong Zhang (Undergraduate Researcher)

kaizhong.zhang AT

Kaizhong Zhang is a sophomore from Nanjing, China. He is double majoring in Engineering Science and Mathematics with a minor in Neuroscience. Outside of academics, Kaizhong is involved in Vanderbilt University Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Vandy Hacks, and Nashville Student Filmmakers Club. He is interested in learning to apply Machine learning and Scientific Computing techniques to neuroscience and cognitive science.


Jeff Annis, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Data Scientist at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center

jeff.annis AT

Jeff was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory 2019. He was interested in the mechanisms and representations involved in memory and categorization. He received his Ph.D. from the University of South Florida in 2014 where he studied the relationship between memory and perception via sequential dependencies. Jeff used computational models, Bayesian hierarchical methods, and empirical investigations to understand the dynamics of perceptual expertise and visual memory. Other work interfaced deep learning, convolutional neural network models of vision with cognitive models of perception, memory, and decision making.

academic family tree


Leanne Boucher, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Associate Professor of Psychology at Nova Southeastern University

Leanne received her Ph.D. from Dartmouth College in 1992 under the mentorship of Howard Hughes. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt with Jeff Schall, Tom Palmeri, and Gordon Logan. We published a paper in Psychological Review that described a stochastic model of saccade countermanding that accounts for details of both behavior and neurophysiology. Her other work used behavioral experiments and modeling to examine trial-by-trial adjustments in behavior in the countermanding task, the effects of eye and hand responses in countermanding, and the relationships between working memory, attention, and eye movements. Her postdoctoral fellowship was supported by an individual NRSA from the NIH.

web page | academic family tree


Stephen Denton, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Research Analyst and Consultant in Canada

Stephen was a member of the lab 2011-2012. He now lives in Toronto. At Indiana, as a graduate student with John Kruschke and postdoctoral fellow with Rich Shiffrin and Rob Nosofsky, his research interests encompassed a broad range of cognitive science topics with a predominant concentration being on mathematical models of learning and categorization. He studied and modeled shifts of attention in associative learning. He explored and modeled how humans select information to learn about, in associative learning tasks (i.e., how people actively learn). He investigated how multiple types of mental representations (e.g., rules and exemplars) can be flexibly applied in human category learning and in models thereof. And he explored and modeled the inference process by which people form percepts of the visual world using a short-term priming paradigm. At Vanderbilt, he conducted behavioral and modeling research on face recognition and real world perceptual expertise.

academic family tree


Suzie Dukic (Former PEN Coordinator)

now Core Faculty, Training Coordinator, Adler University, Chicago

Suzie worked as the PEN coordinator for several great years. After completing her Master’s degree in Counseling at Lipscomb and working as a researcher in David Zald’s laboratory, she earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville.


Jonathan Folstein, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Assistant Professor of Psychology at Florida State Univeristy

jonathan.r.folstein AT

Jonathan received his Ph.D. from the University of Arizona under the mentorship of Cyma Van Petten. He is interested in the neural basis of semantic memory and object categorization. For his dissertation, he employed event related potentials to investigate perceptual classification. At Vanderbilt, he conducted behavioral and fMRI research on category learning and its impact on object representations.

web page | academic family tree


Michael Mack, Ph.D. (Former Graduate Student)

now Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto

mack.michael AT

Mike received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt in 2011 and then gained postdoctoral experience at UT Austin with Brad Love and Allison Preston. His research at Vanderbilt examined the cognitive mechanisms involved in visual object recognition and categorization, examined how different computational models of categorization can account for the time course of categorization, and collaborated with Jenn Richler on the role of perceptual and decisional influences of holistic processing in face perception. At UT Austin, he combined cognitive modeling and fMRI to understand the representations and processes underlying categorization and memory. He begins as a new faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto in Fall 2016.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Brent Miller, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

bymiller AT

Brent came from a background in computer engineering, and was interested in how the mechanisms of information storage, retrieval and encoding affect judgment and decision making. Previously, he used computational modeling to show how certain decision behavior necessarily arises from probabilistic information representation in the brain. By using modeling to describe behavioral and neurological data, he pursued these questions further into the biological substrate. In his fellowship, Brent explored ensemble models of decision making. Brent came from the University of California, Irvine, where he received his Ph.D. in 2014.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Lance Pearson, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

Former Director of Applied Analytics for the Philadelphia 76ers

Lance received his PhD from Boston University and then worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Logan, Palmeri, and Schall developing computational models of saccade decision making. After Vanderbilt, he was on the faculty in a small college in Kentucky, where in addition to teaching courses in psychology, he was an assistant coach for the college basketball team. He later moved to an analytics position with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he rose to become the Director of Applied Analytics. He moved on from the 76ers after a change in team management.

web page | academic family tree


Braden Purcell, Ph.D. (Former Graduate Student)

now Data Scientist at Squarespace

braden.a.purcell AT

Braden developed computational cognitive neuroscience models of visual section and perceptual decision making that accounted for behavior and single unit neural activity. He continued his training in neurophysiology and computational neuroscience in a postdoctoral fellowship at NYU with Roozbeh Kiani. Braden recently began work as a Data Scientist at Squarespace in New York City.

web page | academic family tree


Jennifer Richler, Ph.D. (Former Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Senior Editor at Nature Publishing

jenn.richler AT

As a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, Jenn was broadly interested in the cognitive mechanisms involved in visual object recognition, memory, and categorization and how these processes are modulated by experience and expertise. She recently began a new career as Senior Editor at Nature Publishing. In this new position, she be covering psychology and social sciences for interdisciplinary Nature titles including Nature Climate Change, Nature Energy, and Nature Nanotechnology among others; the job covers all aspects of the editorial process, including manuscript selection, commissioning and editing of Reviews and News & Views, and writing for the journals.

vita | web page | academic family tree


David Ross, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Postdoctoral Fellow at UMass

davidross AT

David was broadly interested in the mechanisms underlying visual object perception in the brain. Specifically, he was interested in the processes underling human face recognition. Some of his work used computational modelling and psychophysical investigation to explore high-level adaptation aftereffects and their implications for norm and exemplar accounts of face recognition. David was a visiting graduate student at Vanderbilt in the spring 2010 and he started as a postdoctoral fellow with Gauthier and Palmeri in 2011. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts.

web page | research gate | academic family tree


Craig Sanders, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Data Scientist at Lowe’s

craig.a.sanders AT

In his research, Craig was interested in combining machine learning (especially deep learning) with classic cognitive models to understand how people perceive, categorize, and mentally represent objects. Craig received his B.S. in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2013, and received his Ph.D. in Psychological and Brain Science from Indiana University in the Summer 2018. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Palmeri and Gauthier using a combination of deep learning models and cognitive models to explain individual differences in visual cognition. He left his fellowship after a year for a data science position in industry.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Mathieu Servant, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Université de Bourgogne Franche-Comté

servant.mathieu AT

Mathieu has a background in cognitive neuroscience and is interested in the computational and neural basis of perceptual decision-making. He completed his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Marseille (France) where he studied the links between decision-making and cognitive control using computational models and electrophysiology. At Vanderbilt, Mathieu pursued his research in collaboration with Palmeri, Jeff Schall, Gordon Logan, and Geoff Woodman.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Jianhong (May) Shen, Ph.D. (Former Graduate Student)

now Data Scientist at Facebook

jianhong.shenvandy AT

May was an undergraduate at Peking University, where she worked with Professor Fang Fang. Her research in graduate school focused primarily on developing and testing computational models of expert visual categorization. Her work combined stochastic accumulator modeling, Bayesian Hierarchical modeling, and psychometric methods.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Gabriel Tillman, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Lecturer at Australian College of Applied Psychology, Sydney, Australia AT

Gabriel is interested in how people make simple perceptual decisions about incoming sensory information. During his Ph.D., he used mathematical models to learn about the mental processes involved in speech perception, word recognition, and driving motor vehicles under increased cognitive load. At Vanderbilt, Gabriel worked with Palmeri, Schall, and Logan in developing neurocognitive models of perceptual decision-making.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Akash Umakantha (Former Undergraduate Researcher)

now Graduate Student in Neurocomputation at Carnegie Mellon

Akash was a member of the Vanderbilt Class of 2015 with majors in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering. He graduated as the winner of the Founder’s Medal from the School of Engineering, the most prestigious award Vanderbilt gives to its students. He worked in the CatLab from the summer after his first year as a Vanderbilt Research Fellow; one summer he attended the prestigious Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory summer course. He worked on a project linking spiking neural network models and stochastic accumulator models of decision making. He is broadly interested in scientific computing and building computational neuroscience models. Akash is now a graduate student in Neural Computation and Machine Learning at Carnegie Mellon University.


Tim Vickery, Ph.D. (Former Research Assistant)

now Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Delaware

Tim worked in the lab as an undergraduate and as a research assistant. He recently completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in the lab of Yuhong Jiang doing research on attention and decision making. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University.

web page | academic family tree


Alan C.-N. Wong, Ph.D. (Former Graduate Student)

now Associate Professor of Psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

alanwong AT

Alan studied visual expertise in letter perception and subordinate-level object perception under the supervision of Isabel Gauthier and Tom Palmeri. His research training combined psychophysics, fMRI, ERP, and computational modeling. His primary interest has been on recovering the general principles in perceptual learning and in the organization of our visual object perception system. Alan is now on the faculty at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

vita | web page | academic family tree


Bram Zandbelt, Ph.D. (Former Postdoctoral Fellow)

now Postdoctoral Fellow at the Donders Centre in The Netherlands

bramzandbelt AT

Bram earned his Ph.D. from Utrecht University where he investigated the neural mechanisms of proactive and reactive inhibition in healthy human subjects and patients with schizophrenia. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Jeff Schall, Gordon Logan, and Thomas Palmeri on computational models of response time and executive control. He was broadly interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying executive control of actions, with an emphasis on mechanisms involved in response inhibition. To address these issues, he used versions of the stop-signal task and employs diverse techniques, including brain imaging, brain stimulation, and computational modeling. After his fellowship at Vanderbilt, Bram moved to the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour in The Netherlands. He is now working as a data scientist in industry.

vita | web page